Movie producers frustrated by loss of Miami police liaison for shoots
By Risa Polansky
As Miami-Dade County begins charging an unprecedented $100 film permit application fee this week, some who film in Miami say they also face a new hurdle in getting cameras rolling.
Though protocol has always called for using the City of Miami police department's special events office to secure off-duty police officers, a sergeant had acted as a liaison, speeding up what some say can be a lengthy process.
In an e-mail this month, Sgt. Curtis Hoosier told industry players "it brings me great pain to have to advise everybody that from now on all requests for whatever you may want or need has to go through the Special Events Office, and they will decide if I can assist you with whatever project that you might have or have coming up."
Greg Kasper, president of the local arm of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, said even the smallest inconvenience — such as the lack of a go-to guy — could drive productions elsewhere.
"If it's going to complicate things at all with a production company and they could go to Broward County or Palm Beach County and not have to deal with it anywhere else, they'll go," he said. "If it's one less thing to deal with, they'll go somewhere else."
Glinys Benson, a local location manager, wrote to city officials that "I have worked in the film industry as a location scout/manager for 15 years. Throughout the past 15 years, dealing with the Special Events Office has been difficult to say the least. Now you are trying to make it an impossible task."
Carlos Valdez of the city police department's events office said it often takes time to secure volunteer officers to attend film shoots.
But Ms. Benson said the situation is unique to Miami.
"When we, and I do believe that I can speak for others in the industry, require officers in any other municipality, we are greeted as welcomed customers, which, as a money generating industry, is what we expect," she wrote. "It is not until we come to the City of Miami Special Events, Police Department that we all encounter trouble… If you had sufficient staff willing to accommodate us, we would not feel the need to contact a sergeant to give us assistance."
Producer Judd Allison wrote in an e-mail that "we are not a special event and can't be treated like one. We don't have the liberty to have three-to-five weeks advance notice. Our jobs happen and they happen quickly."
He noted that the city's "film office understands this and issues our permit immediately."
Robert Parente, director of the Miami Mayor's Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, said he's coordinating a meeting with location scouts next week "so we can sort out the problems."
Mr. Parente advocated for a convenient permitting process in the fall after the county commission voted to charge the $100 application fee.
Miami is to offer free permitting for those looking to film only within city limits, he said in September.